I have heard "Rocky Top" dozens, if not hundreds, of times in my life while watching University of Tennessee athletics. And I've long thought it's the best fight song in all of sports.
But it wasn't until Tuesday night when I heard Pat Summitt sing a few bars of "Rocky Top" during the Tennessee-Florida men's hoops game that I really listened to the words for the first time. And I have to say -- it left me with lots and lots of questions.
Here are the actual lyrics to "Rocky Top," which was written in 1967 by Felice and Boudleaux Bryant. My questions are in parentheses. And, please, if any Tennessee fans can clear up my confusion on all of this, I'd be much obliged. Seriously.
Wish that I was on ol' Rocky Top,
Down in the Tennessee hills;
Ain't no smoggy smoke on Rocky Top,
Ain't no telephone bills.
(Wait … what? No telephone bills? Is the cost of phone service a huge problem in Tennessee or something? Can't your state legislature do something about that for you? And, if not, just cancel your land line and use your cell phone for all of your calls. That's what I would do.)
Once I had a girl on Rocky Top,
Half bear, the other half cat;
Wild as a mink, but sweet as soda pop,
I still dream about that.
(Again, I'm confused. Honestly. So a dude's "girlfriend" was apparently some sort of soulless bear-cat hybrid? Yeah, if that was me I'd keep that relationship on the down-low way out in the mountains, too. But I'm different, in that if I had frequent dreams about being intimate with an animal, I sure as heck wouldn't brag about it in a song.)
(Chorus) Rocky Top, you'll always be
Home sweet home to me;
Good ol' Rocky Top --
Rocky Top Tennessee, Rocky Top Tennessee.
(OK, I'm with you here. You like Rocky Top. I got it. And the brass build-up to this chorus is why I think this is the best song in sports.)
Once two strangers climbed ol' Rocky Top
Lookin' for a moonshine still;
Strangers ain't come down from Rocky Top,
Reckon they never will.
(Soooooo … am I to gather that you kill federal officers who investigate illegal production of alcoholic beverages, and that you're so blazed about it you see no problem singing it out to the world? I see. You Tennesseans have a bit of an anger problem, don't you? Now I'm kind of wishing I hadn't written this. Please don't take my honest questions the wrong way. I don't want any violence.)
Corn won't grow at all on Rocky Top,
Dirt's too rocky by far;
That's why all the folks on Rocky Top
Get their corn from a jar.
(Another moonshine reference. You like the drink, no? But for your own health, I must ask: You do realize corn ingested via moonshine does not count toward the recommended daily intake of vegetables, right? Same with fruit wine. It's not the same as eating a piece of fruit.)
I've had years of cramped-up city life,
Trapped like a duck in a pen;
All I know is it's a pity life
Can't be simple again.
(Yes, it sure is a "pity life" living in a city, what with reasonable phone bills, no access to frisky bear-cats, laws against killing federal officers and a dearth of corn-based alcohol. I mean, who wouldn't want to live on Rocky Top?)
(One last time on the chorus … sing it loud and proud! That is, those of you who aren't passed out drunk, arrested, or mauled by the killing machine you call your girlfriend.)